If you’ve ever wondered what my favourite part of a vacation is, it’s not the room service at midnight, white fluffy hotel robes, or lack of guilt when sleeping in till 1pm. It’s the time I have to read. The time to be completely lost in a book and not have to think of all my unreplied emails or unwritten university essays. Since I can remember I’ve always been an avid reader. From teen fiction novels to the classics, I would always be the person on the train or airplane clutching unto a book. Sadly, I’ve found the older I get, the less quality time I spend curling up with a good read – especially with the new options of brainlessly binge-watching a Netflix show or mindlessly scroll through Instagram. But there’s something about getting lost in an incredible book that is so calming and beautifully isolating to me. I try and read at least one novel a month, even when I don’t have the luxury of sitting by a pool and getting pulled into a new book. Find out below what I read during my recent trip to Mauritius, and other books I recommend if you want to join me in kickstarting a (hopefully) fiction-filled 2018! Also… Scroll down for many more photos.
Saint Laurent Sunglasses
Photos by Pelumi Obanure
Location: Le Saint Géran, Mauritius
White Teeth by Zadie Smith (2000)
My Thoughts: I first read White Teeth when I was 16 and instantly fell in love with Smith’s writing. It may sound a little simplified, but Smith’s certain way of storytelling this book is perfect to me – believable, yet deeply heartfelt. Up until reading White Teeth I was a bit of a contemporary fiction snob and only read what I deemed to be the “classics” – Dickens, Tolstoy, Hemingway etc. White Teeth showed me that a book set in recent day London can be as spellbinding as Greek Mythology.
Synopsis: Zadie Smith’s dazzling first novel plays out its bounding, vibrant course in a Jamaican hair salon in North London, an Indian restaurant in Leicester Square, an Irish poolroom turned immigrant café, a liberal public school, and a sleek science institute. A winning debut in every respect, White Teeth marks the arrival of a wondrously talented writer who takes on the big themes —faith, race, gender, history, and culture— and triumphs.
Swing Time by Zadie Smith (2016)
My Thoughts: Swing Time was my official Mauritius read. To say I found it hard to do much else than have my nose between its pages would be an understatement. I spent most days laying in the hotel hammock, diving into the world of Tracey and the unnamed narrator. Honestly, I blindly started reading Swing Time because I had been so enthralled by White Teeth. But really, it doesn’t disappoint.
Synopsis: Two brown girls dream of being dancers–but only one, Tracey, has talent. The other has ideas: about rhythm and time, about black bodies and black music, about what constitutes a tribe, or makes a person truly free. It’s a close but complicated childhood friendship that ends abruptly in their early twenties, never to be revisited, but never quite forgotten, either. Dazzlingly energetic and deeply human, Swing Time is a story about friendship and music and stubborn roots, about how we are shaped by these things and how we can survive them. Moving from northwest London to West Africa, it is an exuberant dance to the music of time.
The Beautiful and the Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1922)
My Thoughts: The Beautiful and the Damned has historically played second fiddle to The Great Gatsby, but it defiantly remains my favourite of Fitzgerald’s work. It’s long, it’s bleak, but it’s so dismally intriguing that I couldn’t think of much else for weeks after.
Synopsis: Embellished with the author’s lyrical prose, here is the story of Harvard-educated, aspiring aesthete Anthony Patch and his beautiful wife, Gloria. As they await the inheritance of his grandfather’s fortune, their reckless marriage sways under the influence of alcohol and avarice. A devastating look at the nouveau riche and New York nightlife, as well as the ruinous effects of wild ambition, The Beautiful and the Damned achieved stature as one of Fitzgerald’s most accomplished novels. Its distinction as a classic endures to this day.
Things Fall Apart by China Achebe (1958)
My Thoughts: I’m embarrassed to say that as a Nigerian, I only began reading classic Nigerian fiction when I turned 18. Having lived in the UK most of my life, Achebe was left out of my school’s curriculum, so it’s been really crucial for me to take it upon myself to read some of the great fiction from my country. When I finally read Things Fall Apart I was mesmerised by Achebe’s ability to visualize the banal, spectacular, and wretched in such a magical way. I urge anyone who hasn’t read Achebe or the works of any Nigerian author, to start here.
Synopsis: Things Fall Apart tells two overlapping, intertwining stories, both of which center around Okonkwo, a “strong man” of an Ibo village in Nigeria. The first of these stories traces Okonkwo’s fall from grace with the tribal world in which he lives, and in its classical purity of line and economical beauty it provides us with a powerful fable about the immemorial conflict between the individual and society. The second story, which is as modern as the first is ancient, and which elevates the book to a tragic plane, concerns the clash of cultures and the destruction of Okonkwo’s world through the arrival of aggressive, proselytizing European missionaries. These twin dramas are perfectly harmonized, and they are modulated by an awareness capable of encompassing at once the life of nature, human history, and the mysterious compulsions of the soul.
On the Road by Jack Kerouac (1957)
My Thoughts: Have you ever read a book that’s made you fantasize living within its time period or philosophy? That’s how I felt after reading On the Road. Well, I guess besides the racism of 1950s America, and ultimate downfall of the protagonists, Kerouac had me hooked to Beat doctrine.
Synopsis: On the Road chronicles Jack Kerouac’s years traveling the North American continent with his friend Neal Cassady. As “Sal Paradise” and “Dean Moriarty,” the two roam the country in a quest for self-knowledge and experience. Kerouac’s love of America, his compassion for humanity, and his sense of language as jazz combine to make On the Road an inspirational work of lasting importance. Kerouac’s classic novel of freedom and longing defined what it meant to be “Beat” and has inspired every generation since its initial publication.
And what I plan to read next…
Fire and Fury by Michael Wolff (2018)
My Thoughts: This book might end up being even more depressing than The Beautiful and the Damned but I’m admittedly intrigued to find out what a certain, impotent Oompa Loompa has really been doing behind the oval office doors.
Synopsis: With extraordinary access to the Trump White House, Michael Wolff tells the inside story of the most controversial presidency of our time. The first nine months of Donald Trump’s term were stormy, outrageous—and absolutely mesmerizing. Now, thanks to his deep access to the West Wing, bestselling author Michael Wolff tells the riveting story of how Trump launched a tenure as volatile and fiery as the man himself. Never before has a presidency so divided the American people. Brilliantly reported and astoundingly fresh, Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury shows us how and why Donald Trump has become the king of discord and disunion.
Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge (2017)
My Thoughts: This book has admittedly been on my bookshelf for weeks, but I can’t wait to dive into it now that I’m done with Swing Time. Its rousing title was the first thing to catch my eye, but I’m sure I’ll be hooked by Eddo-Lodge’s take on race relations in the UK.
Synopsis: In 2014, award-winning journalist Reni Eddo-Lodge wrote about her frustration with the way that discussions of race and racism in Britain were being led by those who weren’t affected by it. She posted a piece on her blog, entitled: ‘Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race’. Her words hit a nerve. The post went viral and comments flooded in from others desperate to speak up about their own experiences. Galvanised by this clear hunger for open discussion, she decided to dig into the source of these feelings. Exploring issues from eradicated black history to the political purpose of white dominance, whitewashed feminism to the inextricable link between class and race, Reni Eddo-Lodge offers a timely and essential new framework for how to see, acknowledge and counter racism. It is a searing, illuminating, absolutely necessary exploration of what it is to be a person of colour in Britain today.