It appears that this month I am dreaming of far-off places, places that are vast, often inhospitable and to a certain extent unknowable. My starting point when putting together my monthly reading list was ‘desert’, and while a couple of these books have a rather tenuous link to the subject, they have all ended up having at least one thing in common. Each of these books is somehow about a journey – and, more specifically, about heading into the unknown.
Although it really happened by accident, this seems a more than fitting theme for my reading in the month of May. Besides these four books that make up my core list, I have plans to read (or at least embark on) a few others, including The Great Homecoming by Anna Kim, translated from the German by Jamie Lee Searle, and – at long last – the doorstep of a novel that is Lucy Ellmann’s Ducks, Newburyport, one I’ve been looking forward to for almost a year but still haven’t got round to tackling. All that might be a bit much for one month, but these days I find reading providing solace like never before.
This month I’d also like to say a huge thank you to the following bookshops for doing such sterling work in times of trouble. Daunt Books, Stanfords and Burley Fisher Books have all handled my orders with efficiency, personality and, most importantly, immense good cheer. Please support your local independent whenever possible.
In May I will be reading and reviewing:
American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins (Tinder Press)
What the publisher says: ‘Vivid, visceral, utterly compelling, American Dirt is an unforgettable story of a mother and son’s attempt to cross the US-Mexico border. Described as ‘impossible to put down’ (Saturday Review) and ‘essential reading’ (Tracy Chevalier), it is a story that will leave you utterly changed.’
The Immeasurable World by William Atkins (Faber & Faber)
What the publisher says: ‘Travelling to five continents over three years, William Atkins discovers a realm that is as much internal as physical. From the contested borderlands of the USA to Australia’s nuclear test zones, via Nevada’s riotous Burning Man festival and the ancient monasteries of Egypt, he illuminates the people, history, nature and symbolism of these remarkable but often volatile places.’
Stories of the Sahara by Sanmao, translated from the Chinese by Mike Fu (Bloomsbury)
What the publisher says: ‘Stories of the Sahara invites us into Sanmao’s extraordinary life in the desert: her experiences of love and loss, freedom and peril, all told with a voice as spirited as it is timeless. At a period when China was beginning to look beyond its borders, Sanmao fired the imagination of millions and inspired a new generation. […] this is an essential collection from one of the twentieth century’s most iconic figures.’
The Wind That Lays Waste by Selva Almada, translated from the Spanish by Chris Andrews (Charco Press)
What the publisher says: ‘Selva Almada’s exquisitely crafted début, with its limpid and confident prose, is profound and poetic, a tactile experience of arid landscapes, heat, squat trees, broken cars, sweat-stained shirts, and ruined lives. The Wind That Lays Waste is a philosophical, beautiful, and powerfully distinctive novel that marks the arrival in English of an author whose talent and poise are undeniable.’