It’s April, the sun is shining, and many more books are making their way on to my shelves. This is mainly the fault of the International Booker Prize, the longlist for which was released a couple of days ago (if you missed it, you’ll find all the titles here).
While I was pleased to see some fantastic books such as Elisabeth Jaquette’s translation of Minor Detail by Adania Shibli and In Memory of Memory by Maria Stepanova, translated by Sasha Dugdale, make the list, it’s also full of surprises – or should I say, books I haven’t read yet. Though I tend not to make my way religiously through prize lists, more than a few of these titles have caught my eye, so I’ll be trying to get my hands on them over the next while.
Before all that, though, a list of books grouped loosely around a theme: April is devoted to the environment, at least where my reading is concerned. While we’re definitely seeing the rise of ‘climate fiction’, the books I’ve opted for this month are less dystopian, more focused on the world we live in today. They cover destruction in the Amazon rainforest, the lives of migratory birds, and how what we eat can change the planet – for better or for worse.
My German choice is, as usual, not really connected to the theme, but does at least centre on a young girl who spends her summer holidays picking camomile flowers. I’m very behind on my German reviews but have decided to go ahead and add this novel to the list, as it’s now been looking at me from my unread shelf for well over a year. And with new books potentially coming in – well, I need the space.
And so, without further ado, my environmental reading list for April is as follows:
Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy (Flatiron Books)
What the publisher says: ‘Franny Stone has always been the kind of woman who is able to love but unable to stay. Leaving behind everything but her research gear, she arrives in Greenland with a singular purpose: to follow the last Arctic terns in the world on what might be their final migration to Antarctica. Franny talks her way onto a fishing boat, and she and the crew set sail, traveling ever further from shore and safety. But as Franny’s history begins to unspool – a passionate love affair, an absent family, a devastating crime – it becomes clear that she is chasing more than just the birds. When Franny’s dark secrets catch up with her, how much is she willing to risk for one more chance at redemption? Epic and intimate, heartbreaking and galvanizing, Charlotte McConaghy’s Migrations is an ode to a disappearing world and a breathtaking page-turner about the possibility of hope against all odds.’
We Are the Weather by Jonathan Safran Foer (Penguin)
What the publisher says: ‘It is all too easy to feel paralysed and hopeless in the face of climate crisis, but the truth is that every one of us has the power to change history’s course. We have done it before: making collective sacrifices to protect our freedoms, our families, our way of life. And we can do it again. In this extraordinarily powerful and deeply personal book, Jonathan Safran Foer lays bare the battle to save the planet. Calling each one of us to action, he answers the most urgent question of all: what will it take for things to change? It all starts with what we eat for breakfast.’
Wars of the Interior by Joseph Zárate, translated from the Spanish by Annie McDermott (Granta)
What the publisher says: ‘When you fill up your car, install your furniture or choose a wedding ring, do you ever consider the human cost of your consumables? [ . . . ] Joseph Zárate’s stunning work of documentary takes three of Peru’s most precious resources – gold, wood and oil – and exposes the tragedy, violence and corruption tangled up in their extraction. But he also draws us in to the rich, surprising world of Peru’s indigenous communities, of local heroes and singular activists, of ancient customs and passionate young environmentalists. Wars of the Interior is a deep insight into the cultures alive in the vanishing Amazon, and a forceful, shocking exposé of the industries destroying this land.’
How Beautiful We Were by Imbolo Mbue (Canongate Books)
What the publisher says: ‘Set in the fictional African village of Kosawa, How Beautiful We Were tells the story of a people living in fear amidst environmental degradation wrought by an American oil company. Pipeline spills have rendered farmlands infertile. Children are dying from drinking toxic water. Promises of clean-up and financial reparations are made – and ignored. The country’s government, led by a brazen dictator, exists to serve its own interest only. Left with few choices, the people of Kosawa decide to fight back. But their fight will come at a steep price . . . one which generation after generation will have to pay.’
7 Kilo Zeit by Rumjana Zacharieva (Horlemann)
What the publisher says: ‘Summer 1962, in a Bulgarian village. Twelve-year-old Mila needs to pick seven kilograms of camomile for the village cooperative in order to get her schoolbooks for the coming year. She’s also supposed to work her way through a reading list of twenty-two books and practise her handwriting every day. But Mila would rather flick through forbidden titles from the grown-ups’ shelves and dream of dying a heroine’s death as a freedom fighter in the Cold War. And then there’s the mysterious history of her parents, her grandparents and the whole village to investigate . . .’